First up, congratulations to @ManTheyCallMac for calling the Christian Koloko pick. We’ll have detailed analysis of the selection in the days to come including podcasts and breakdowns, but for now here are some initial thoughts.
It’s difficult to anticipate who teams might be targeting this late in the order, especially for the Raptors who keep their cards close to their chest. Exhibit A was Woj having no clue what the Raptors were going to do – notice the conspicuous absence of #33.
They end up with Christian Koloko, a 7’1″ rookie center out of Arizona who hails from the same town as Pascal Siakam. Make no mistake, this is a defensive move as hinted by Bobby Webster earlier who clearly had prioritized defense.
Here’s a highlight pack to give you an idea:
Though I was enamoured by what little I’d seen of EJ Liddell, the Raptors ended up shoring up their defense instead of going for one of the available scoring options. It turns out that getting eaten alive by Joel Embiid in the post-season makes a mark. Since Embiid isn’t going anywhere it makes sense to plan a response. The Raptors have to live with the likes of Boston, Milwaukee and Philly for the foreseeable future and I see this as a minor countermove. It’s like giving a pawn the chance to become queen. Nick Nurse spoke about the pick and once again focused almost entirely on defense:
"Good shot blocker. Really good defensive numbers. … Pretty decent pick-and-roll player. And he's got good feet. … I think he's not without the ability to do some switching and move on the perimeter as well." – Nick Nurse on 33rd pick Christian Koloko
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) June 24, 2022
Below is a more detailed scouting report courtesy of The Ringer, but Nurse pointed out something the below didn’t: the fact that he’s a “decent pick-and-roll player”. As you might’ve observed all season, the PnR – a staple of NBA offenses – was curiously lacking in Toronto. Khem Birch and Chris Boucher were probably our best PnR bigs, and that’s saying a lot. I’m not suggesting that Koloko will diversify the Raptors offense immediately, but it’s nice to see the Raptors do two things at the same time: improve a demonstrably vulnerable position defensively, and invest in expanding their offensive options.
The most common description of Koloko that came up in the live draft show was “rim runner”, which is exactly the kind of aggression you want in your roll-man. The 72.2% FT shooting is key because at his size he’s likely to get fouled and much like how JV paid dividends at the line, so could Koloko in the medium term. Analysis and grades from Samson, Brendan, Kyle and Mac is linked to the exact timestamp below (3:50:47 – yeah, it was a four hour show):